How the White Sox react to Dallas Keuchel questioning the team’s effort level and accusing some of “going through the motions” will ultimately be determined by the response on the field, but at least two of his teammates backed their starting pitcher Tuesday.
“Somebody had to say it,” shortstop Tim Anderson said.
Catcher James McCann, whose relationship with Keuchel goes back to college, echoed that sentiment.
“I agree with everything Keuchel said. I'll be the first one to tell you he didn't go through the media and say it. He said it to everyone's face in the clubhouse. First off, that's the sign of a leader,” McCann said.
And perhaps that was the biggest revelation Tuesday. Before Keuchel spoke with reporters following his team’s sloppy 5-1 loss to the Tigers Monday night, the pitcher first gathered his teammates together in the clubhouse and told them the same things he was about to express to the media.
Keuchel, who started the game and only allowed three runs in six innings, then told reporters that he saw “sub-par play from everybody” and “it just seemed like we were taking a night off.”
“He's exactly right,” McCann said Tuesday. “Even in a 162-game season, there has to be a sense of urgency. If you go through the motions, you're going to end up looking up in September and chasing the team in first place. And it's even more important this year in a 60-game season ... You have to have that sense of urgency and not just go through the motions.”
Keuchel said some players were taking professional at-bats, while others, well, weren’t. But Anderson didn’t seem to mind a pitcher – let alone one who has only made four starts in a White Sox uniform – making that kind of public observation.
“I just take those words and I use those to motivate me,” Anderson said. “Because he is my pitcher and I do play defense behind him and for a pitcher to tell me we're not taking professional at-bats, I take that to heart. So I'm going to use that as motivation, but all good energy. All positive energy. Nothing against him.”
Anderson certainly wasn’t at fault, as he missed the last 10 days with a minor groin injury. He was activated off the injured list Tuesday and was back in the lineup, leading off. But as the White Sox lost five of their last six games, Anderson could only watch from the bench.
“I don't see anything wrong with anything that (Keuchel) said. Like he said, there is a lot of talent in the locker room, but hopefully that will light a match under some guys and get them going,” Anderson said.
It’s unclear if the entire clubhouse agrees – MLB’s COVID-19 protocols understandably do not allow reporters access to the clubhouse -- but the voices of Anderson and McCann do carry a lot of weight.
“I think it was received great. The way he went about it. No one was singled out,” McCann said. “It was a team type comment. And yeah, it was really the first full team kind of gut check. It couldn't have come from a better guy or at a better time.”
But another interesting revelation is that manager Rick Renteria was not in the meeting that Keuchel held with his teammates. After Monday’s loss, he spoke about a need for players showing accountability in the clubhouse, but at that point, did not know Keuchel was doing just that.
“He felt compelled to do what he did and we encourage all of our guys to do it,” Renteria said. “The way they're going to continue to grow is to be able to know how each feels about each other and the efforts they are giving on a daily basis.”
Renteria admitted that it’s not his “style” to communicate those types of conversations through the media, but he did appreciate that Keuchel talked to his teammates first.
“Prior to the season starting, I had numerous players come up to me and say, 'Listen Ricky, the staff has already taught us how to go about doing our thing. Now it's time for you guys to let us take over and allow us to do the things that we're supposed to do.' That's all they're doing,” Renteria said. “Do I still have a conversation here or there that you guys aren't aware of? Sure. But they are the ones that are holding each other accountable.”
Of course, none of this matters if the White Sox don’t respond on the field.
“Talk is cheap. We can talk all we want. Now we have to back up what was talked about,” McCann said. “It was meant to unite everybody, not to divide guys and I think you're going to see guys with that sense of urgency moving forward."